Sunday January 14, 2018
God speaks to His people by “His Spirit” through “His Word”. In order for us to understand God’s Word “Rightly”, we must interpret it appropriately. Doing so requires understanding the different types of literature (genres) used in the Bible & reading each type accordingly.
So, this morning we are focusing on the scripture of:
2 Timothy 2:15. In response to this message, we want to focus on reading God’s Word “Rightly” to understand His message “Clearly”. We must have a clear understanding of God’s Word before we can correctly apply it to our lives. Recognizing the different “types of literature” & how or why they were used in Scripture & reading “each kind” accordingly, will give us the knowledge to help us interpret God’s Word “Faithfully”, understand it “Clearly”, & apply it “Correctly”.
Interpreting Scripture “Rightly” requires a “right heart”
At the time when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy, Timothy was the Young Pastor of the Church in Ephesus. He was much younger than Paul, therefore, Paul considered him like a son thru their shared Faith. Paul begins his admonition to Timothy by telling him to “be diligent” (strive) to present himself to God as one who is “approved” (that is, one that has been tested & found to be pure, like tested metal). If he lives in such a manner, he will have no reason to be “ashamed.” He says this to him because; there were people around young Timothy who had reason to be ashamed. They had been tested & found lacking. Some were self-serving. Others had been caught up in doctrinal error and/or arguments, & some were just telling people what they thought they wanted to hear.
Interpreting Scripture “Rightly” requires a “right approach”
Others in Ephesus were not interpreting and/or using Scripture appropriately. Paul admonished Timothy to “Rightly Divide the Word of Truth.” “Rightly Divide” literally means “to cut a straight road.” It is used only ONCE here in the New Testament in 2nd Timothy 2:15, and only ONCE in the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) in Proverbs 3:6, where God is said to “cut a straight path” for those who walk faithfully in His ways. So, how can we “rightly divide” the Word of Truth? Obviously, the greatest requirement for doing so is depending on the Holy Spirit to lead us & guide us into “all truth”. But, what are some practical steps we can employ as we seek the Spirit’s leadership & guidance?
A. Consider the Context
One of the most important issues in interpreting the Bible correctly is that of “Context”. There are several factors to consider here. What is the immediate context – what is happening in this verse & the surrounding verses? What is this passage’s context in light of the book in which it is found? Where does this passage – and the book in which it is found – fit into the larger picture of the grand story of Scripture? For example, Deuteronomy 30 must be read, not only in light of the rest of Deuteronomy, but in light of where it fits in the Pentateuch and in light of the whole Bible.
B.Consider the Type
What is the type of literature you are reading? Is it a historical narrative – telling a story? Is it prophecy, where the prophet of God is either fore-telling a future event or forth-telling God’s message to His people? Is it wisdom literature – giving general principles that are usually true, but which should not be read as promises that always come true? Is it a letter – written to a particular people at a particular time, but with theological implications for us today? Or, is it apocalyptic literature (like sections of Daniel or the book of Revelation), describing what will happen at the end times? While the Bible is one unified book, telling one consistent story (from creation to re-creation), we must read each of these literary types appropriately to understand them correctly.
A.Consider the Meaning
Any given passage of Scripture can only have one meaning, that being the meaning God-the Holy Spirit, intended when He inspired men to write it down. When we consider the words in a passage, in their context, according to the literary type, guided by the Holy Spirit, we can discover their meaning. While some passages are admittedly more difficult to understand than others, we believe in the perspicuity of Scripture – that the Bible is sufficiently clear for us to understand the meaning God intended & its implications for our lives. A good rule of thumb for difficult passages is to interpret them in light of ones that are clearer.
B.Consider the Application
While passages of Scripture have only one meaning, they can have multiple applications for how they should be applied. The question is, are you reading simply to understand the meaning? Or, are you reading so that, understanding it “Rightly, you may obey it Fully?”
Application: The question is not, can we “Rightly Divide the Word of Truth?” The question is, will we do the hard work of presenting ourselves to God as those who have been tried & tested, unashamed, because we have handled His Word well, both understanding it & living it out?
Our first understanding of the Word of God should be coming to an awareness of our own sin & need for a Savior. After that, we must seek to understand God’s Word “Rightly” & live it out faithfully & obediently, by the power of His Spirit, for the sake of His glory.
This verse well-illustrates the need for understanding that ‘word meanings’ may change, and we must be ever on guard against misapplying or twisting scripture, even when we try to teach “The Truth”.